Prologue – The Fade
The Fade is where people go when they fall asleep. That was the first lesson they taught Neria Surana when she arrived at the Circle Tower, aged ten, and she had learned it well.
It is the dream-world, the world of demons, wraiths and spirits, who looked always to corrupt those who ventured there. They preferred to target mages, of course, for it was mages who remained awake and aware, even in the Fade, and were most susceptible to the whisperings of the Fade-creatures. That was why mages must be controlled, segregated and confined. That was the second lesson, instilled into all those born with the curse of magic, and Neria Surana remembered that, too, for she had always been determined to learn her lessons well.
There was always something warm and comforting about the Fade, though today, she stood on unfamiliar ground, in what looked like a Fortress. It was a little like Ostagar, if anything. Neria yawned. She'd love to get some sleep. There must be a place to sleep in this huge pile. Only she could actually want to sleep in the Fade, a place where you normally had to be asleep to visit in the first place. Must be the fact that she had not been sleeping at nights, ever since she had left the Circle Tower. Now that she had dozed off, on a warm afternoon, she found even the familiarity of the Fade a distraction from the undisturbed sleep she so craved.
Wait, Ostagar? But she had not actually been to Ostagar. She was supposed to go there, yes, but since she planned to escape that night, she would not actually go there, so why was she seeing it in the Fade?
Eh, the Fade was strange. Never could account for everything she saw there. Talking mice, malevolent bears…
Putting that out of her mind, she scampered across the hall to where she could see Duncan and a couple of Grey Wardens chatting with each other.
Hold on a minute. Duncan? Wasn't there something wrong with that thought? And where did these two others come from? One carried a bow and arrow, the other a mage’s staff not unlike her own.
In a moment, her nimble elven feet had climbed the elevation where the striking Commander of the Wardens of Ferelden stood waiting for her, a kind smile on his face.
But Duncan wasn't ever the smiling type, was he?
He spoke to her. Words of re-assurance, of comfort and indolence, of peace and rest. Such a change – a refreshing change, Neria told herself – from the first time she'd met him in Irving's room in the Circle Tower when he'd spoken of nothing but the Blight.
But she was still in the Circle Tower wasn't she? And she was fighting the Blight. She had come to the Tower for their aid to fight the darkspawn. Or was she going away from the Circle Tower, recruited to join the Grey Wardens, the world’s first and only true defenders against the threat of darkspawn and the Blight, only she planned to make her escape before she could join them and live as a hedge witch and have lots and lots of lovers? The Wardens could take care of the darkspawn and the Blight. She owed them nothing. She owed Ferelden nothing, not after she had been wrenched away from her mother’s embrace and thrown into what they called a ‘Circle’ but was really a prison for mages and subjected to the kind of bullying and abuse that had made her the person she was.
Who was the person she was? A tired, hungry girl with a body aching from two weeks of a difficult journey and even more from two months of enforced abstinence, or a powerful mage who had seen enough of the Blight to know it was her duty to do all she could to stop it?
Something wasn't right.
She lashed out, a raw, primal energy emanating from her hands in the form of flame, reducing the man – the demon – before her to a charred corpse in a matter of seconds. Duncan was dead. She had killed Duncan. But he was not…and if he was not Duncan, then where was…?
No time to think of that now - the two other warden-demons were attacking, one with an arrow and another with some flimsy spell that never made it past her arcane shield.
She panted when it was over, the muscles of her taut stomach contracting and relaxing as she breathed in gasps. They were demons of the Fade, or wisps of her imagination – depending on how you looked at them - but the sensation that she had just slaughtered the Commander of the Grey Wardens refused to leave her. She closed her eyes and sank to the ground, curling into a ball.
All those promises, all the reassurances she and Alistair had given each other when words were the only things that seemed to keep them going. And now, the last two Grey Wardens in Ferelden were to end up the thralls of a demon?
Who was Alistair? Why did she remember things that had not happened? Or was she dreaming things that were to come?
I will see it. I will see the Archdemon and the darkspawn, the ghouls and the Shades, and I will fight them.
I will not run.
I am Neria Surana, and I always learn my lessons well.
[Anything you might recognise from playing Dragon Age: Origins is (c) BioWare. This work is not intended to earn any profit or make any money.]
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